Last year, we had friends over for Easter dinner. I love the tradition of lamb, but didn’t want to fool with a roast and an oven on an unseasonably warm day, especially as, keeping it old-school, we would already be starting with a pasta course, so I knew I’d be receiving a steam facial from the pasta pot at the start of the meal. Grilled lamb chops, based on a dish I had eaten and enjoyed many times in Rome, seemed like just the ticket.
I typically eat my red meat medium-rare, and yet most red meat I’d encountered in Italy, outside of Florence, was cooked to a charcoaled-doneness. I found that the one case I never minded this was with lamb chops, especially when they were those little baby lamb chops, that get you about one bite of meat per chop, as the fat along the edge turned into a crisp, succulent accent to the tender meat, almost bacony in texture. These chops were always abundantly flavorful, sometimes served with a wedge of lemon to squeeze on, sometimes perfumed with a little rosemary, always salty and meaty.
So here’s what I do: For every 1 1/2lb chops that I have, I mince and mash 2 garlic cloves to a paste with plenty of salt—mash using the side of your knife, just smushing it down in little bits repeatedly until the tiny pieces of garlic go pasty (the abrasion of the salt helps). Then add in some chopped rosemary—you can certainly do fresh, but I’ve found that dried works really beautifully. Then, smear this paste all over the chops, both sides, and let it sit as long as you want, up to a day. You can pepper them before grilling, but there’s no need for any additional salt.
When the chops are thick, I do still cook them to medium-rare. But when they’re thin, I do go for broke and just blaze them, and we usually end up eating them with our fingers. I later learned that one of my guests was politely hiding her fear of lamb at this gathering, when she started gushing about how much she had dreaded the lamb portion of the dinner, and yet loved these chops. So there you have it.